Alumni Profiles

1,161 Miles on a Dog Sled

Two bicycle trips to Alaska convinced Judy White Currier '84 that she would need a different mode of transportation to experience the immensity of Alaska. But when Currier and her husband, Devan '95, moved there in 1995 from Contocook, N.H., it was a "dog-driven" decision, she says. In New Hampshire, the Curriers had begun raising and racing Siberian Huskies. But from their point of view, the winters were too short, and too often snow-less.

This year, Currier became the first woman from New Hampshire to finish Alaska's most grueling sled dog race, the 1,161-mile Iditarod. With rookie sled dogs, she wasn't trying to win a medal. "My goals were: to finish; and to finish with a happy, healthy team."

Currier began training her dogs for the 1999 Iditarod in late August 1998, and by March 1999, the team had logged about 1,300 miles. To prepare herself, she read books about the race, studied trail notes and worked out regularly at a fitness center, in addition to doing training runs with the dogs.

Yet on March 13, as Currier and 55 other mushers gathered in Anchorage to begin the race, she felt overwhelmed by the thousand miles that lay ahead. She says, "I had very real doubts about finishing the race. But as the race progressed I learned to focus on the trail just ahead and manage the team for that day."

For the next 15 days, Currier and her team of 16 dogs made their way through the frozen wilderness, sometimes alone, other times accompanied by other teams. She recalls high points, such as the trail through the Alaska Range's Rainy Pass, which she calls "one of God's most beautiful and peaceful places" and her team's midnight encounter with a pair of large grey wolves. And low points, such as when she wrenched her knee on a deep mogul near Finger Lake.

Currier arrived at the finish line in Nome frostbitten and tired but happy, with her ten remaining dogs in good condition. (Six dogs were sent back home during the race due to fatigue or minor muscle strain.) "People at the finish were surprised that the 46th-place musher (of 47 finishers) was speechless and in tears, but I think they truly appreciated how happy we were to have finished."

Would she run the race again? "Absolutely."

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